Myth and Prosthesis I: Do robots have an Ethnicity? (Sound Installation/Robotics)

Absolute power creates technology
which creates prostheses
which create reality.
Personal mythology creates technology
which creates prostheses
which create realities
outside the absolute power.

 

Myth is the new arena of the bio-politics of capitalism: our dreams, our delusions, and the relationship between body, mind and reality are the space where some of the most important disputes are happening. In this arena, prostheses and new technologies are key in the control of the possible synaptic connections between mind, body, and reality. I use the word myth to describe this field of negotiations because while capitalism has privileged a modern scientific language (terms such as virtual worlds, parallel universes, neurology, psychiatry, or psychoanalysis) the term “myth” can include other non-Western systems of meaning as well as the modern scientific mythology. I am also interested in de-colonizing the word myth, and take it away from the monopoly of the meta-narratives of rationalism, new age and official religions, that have opposed myth to technology. I understand myth as a becoming, an always changing and precarious field producing new relationships between mind, body and technology beyond the frames of capitalism or academia.

“Myth and Prosthesis I” is an installation that consists on the creation of a sonic meditation space where a robot is a technology that proposes an alternative map of the geopolitics of myth. It asks in who’s image are new music technologies being designed? Do robots have an ethnicity? What is the place of non-Western cosmologies in the development of new prostheses, technologies and myths? These questions subvert the fantasy of the universal modern scientific project which has constructed itself as a-historic and a-political. It demands the unveiling of the cultural history and political agenda behind the development of new technologies.

This robot/sound sculpture was made  out of need, as a prosthesis that suits me better. Contemporary music technologies are based in most cases in a Western logic of rhythm. Like in Western notation, there is a single grid in which time flows from left to right, and there is a single metronome that acts as a conductor. The brain of my prosthesis is a software which works in a different way, informed by Latin American logics of polyrhythm.

It is a max/msp patch with 6 metronomes and 6 grids in constant displacement. The robot’s brain improvises in real time with accuracy and no latency, generating polyrhythmic textures. The software controls solenoid motors which hit a set of Batá drums, used in Santeria/Yoruba rituals. I am not a Santeria practitioner, but the Yoruba concepts of rhythm and dance are a big influence in my own music and in Latin American music in general. I use both the technologies of Santeria music and electronics as resources in my work. The choice of Batá drums is also an intentional reference to the neuro-spiritual technologies of trance religions such as Santeria, where rhythm and dance are a technology that produces knowledge. “Myth and Prosthesis I: Intersectional Robotics” is an altar to the possibility of creating my own mythology and prostheses, a personal relationship between technology, mind, body and reality, from the margins of capitalism’s map. It is a precarious and mythological antenna that channels a parallel world where Yoruba priests and Nasa scientists are at this moment developing new neuro-spiritual devices. It is also a theory of art manifesto:  No critical discourse can pretend any effectiveness if it does not propose an alternative mythology and technology to the seemingly unescapable myths of capitalism. And art has a primordial responsibility in creating that new mythology.

 

Awards

NY State Council on the Arts/Wavefarm Media Arts Assistance Fund 2018

Open Call for time based installations at Knockdown Center, New York 2018

Harvestworks New Works Commission & Residency 2018.

 

 

Site specific installations and Performances 

 

Center for Performance Research, New York 12/10/17

The drums come from Santeria religion which has influenced my concepts of rhythm and have been always a strong cultural presence around me. The drums are adorned with ritual garments that belonged to my grandfather. They come from Rosicrucianism, a gnostic secret society he belonged to. There are also symbols of a personal mythology I have created. Robotics are too a symbol of Western mythologies. By combining all of them I want to show that they all are symbols of their own mythologies. At the same time all of them are body/psyche technologies that produce knowledge. 

 

 

To see a video of the performance in its entirety click here

 

 

AMIL Gallery, Lima 3/13/18  

I created a ritual environment with personal mythological symbols. The robot improvises while I dance and play percussion, exploring how my body has been constructed as a Latino male, musician and scholar, and I use the robot as a tool to de-construct those categories and find new possibilities. I also de-construct the robot’s “body”, which is usually expected to perform a proficient, modern, Western, clean and cost/benefit efficient tasks.

 

Video footage by Mafia. Photos by Brayan Flores courtesy of the artists and AMIL Gallery. 

 

Documentation 

 

Photos and video by Juan Pablo Aragón 

 

Fundación Telefónica Lima 1/20/17

The audience sat in front of the robot which improvised in real time for 30 minutes. 

 

 

 

Radial Gallery, New York 12/1/17

Installation at my own home. Attendants were allowed to enter the sonic meditation space one at a time. They were left alone with the robot which improvised in real time for 20 minutes. 

 

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